Thursday, December 29, 2011

Rock Soup

A few years ago, I was a subscriber to the Rachael Ray magazine.  Around Christmastime, there was a recipe called Rock Soup, for ham leftovers, which happened to coincide with my having a ton of leftover Christmas ham.  This is a delicious (and not split pea soup) way to use up leftover ham, or you could even just use a ham steak or whatever you have.

This came together fairly quickly and was really easy to make.  It had a ton of flavor, even though I went easy on the hot sauce, and went really well with the leftover bread I used too (Pumpernickel and rye).  I even have a bunch leftover in the freezer for a rainy day or even for lunch club when my turn comes up!

Sopa de Pedra from Everyday with Rachael Ray December/January 2008


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), plus more for drizzling
  • 1/2 pound chorizo, ham or leftover meat, chopped
  • 2 large baking potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 4 ribs celery, chopped
  • 3 to 4 carrots, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper
  • One 15.5-ounce can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes or tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce
  • 2 cups cubed stale bread
  • Chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish


  1. In a soup pot, heat 2 tablespoons EVOO, 2 turns of the pan, over medium-high heat. Add the chorizo and cook for 2 minutes. Add the potatoes, celery, carrots, onion, garlic and bay leaf; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are softened, 7 to 8 minutes.
  2. Add the chickpeas and season with the paprika. Stir in the chicken broth, tomatoes and hot sauce and bring to a boil, about 6 minutes. Lower the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Place 1/2 cup bread cubes in each of 4 bowls and drizzle with EVOO. Pour in the soup; top with parsley.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Dinner Plan

Spinach Dip in Bread Bowl
Cheese and crackers
Shrimp Ring
Something else I can't remember

Sweet Potatoes
Mashed Potatoes
Green Beans
Grands Biscuits

Being brought

One day, we will have something different in the appetizer department and maybe we won't have ham....

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Italian Hot Dog

My husband requested Italian hot dogs for dinner once last week, and not really knowing what all this entailed, I turned to my friend, Google.  I found a "New Jersey" Italian hot dog on Simply Recipes that looked delicious.

I don't typically like a lot of stuff on my dogs; mustard and an occasional sauerkraut are sufficient for me.  But boy, throw some peppers and onions on top and you've got yourself a really tasty dog.  My husband commented that this wasn't *quite* was he was looking for when he requested Italian hot dogs, but that it was really good anyway.

Italian Hot Dogs Simply Recipes

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt
  • 2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 2 medium green peppers, sliced into strips
  • 1 large yellow or white onion, sliced into strips
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, or a mixture of oregano, basil and rosemary
  • 8 beef hot dogs, preferably with natural casings
  • 4 sandwich buns
  • Mustard


1Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan or skillet or griddle until it shimmers. Put the potatoes in the pan in one layer and fry on medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes without touching them. Use a metal spatula to scrape the potatoes off the bottom of the skillet, flipping them. Sprinkle salt over the potatoes, and cook for another 2-3 minutes without touching them.
2 Remove the potatoes, which should be partially browned, to a bowl and set aside. Turn the heat to high and add the peppers and onions. Arrange evenly in the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes without touching them. Sprinkle salt over them, then flip and cook for another 2-3 minutes untouched. There should be some browned and even blackened bits here and there. Add the Italian seasoning and the potatoes to the pan, stir to combine and cook over medium-high heat until they are soft and nicely browned, about 8-10 minutes.
3 Heat a grill or a frying pan to cook your hot dogs; don't boil your dogs for this recipe. Grill or fry until they are done to your liking and set aside.
4 Liberally smear mustard on both sides of the sandwich roll. Add two hot dogs per roll and top with as much of the potatoes, peppers and onions as will fit. Serve at once.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Nutter Butter Snowmen

I was looking for something to bring to a holiday party this weekend, and went to Brown Eyed Baker's blog to see what she had up.  She'd recently posted this recipe, which looked so fun, sweet, and easy that I went for it.

Not only were they fun, sweet, and easy, but they were a perfect afternoon baking activity for my four year old and me.  We had a ton of fun "gluing" the M&Ms as well as sneaking them, and decorating them too.  In addition, they were a big hit at the party!

I have to admit, the orange Tic Tac was a little weird with the other flavors, so next time I might use orange frosting instead.

Nutter Butter Snowmen my pretty purse via Brown Eyed Baker

1. Line a baking sheet with wax paper; set aside.
2. In a small to medium bowl, melt the white candy melts according to the package instructions.
3. Working one at a time, dip a Nutter Butter cookie into the melted coating and flip it over to coat completely (a fork is great for this). Remove and let any excess drip off then place on the wax paper-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining Nutter Butter cookies. Place the baking sheet into the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes so the coating can set.
4. Attach a small decorating tip (I used a #2) to a pastry bag and fill with black icing (I just used Wilton decorating icing to make it easy). Dab a small amount on one side of an M&M and place on the coated cookie. Repeat with another just below to make the two “buttons”.
5. Dab another small amount on the bottom of half of a Tic Tac and affix to the center of the top of the cookie for the nose. Again, repeat.
6. Now squeeze out small dots for the eyes and the mouth. 

Chicken Tamale Casserole

Sometimes, I just get a craving for Mexican food.  Sometimes, I have no idea what to make for dinner, and a recipe lands in my lap that solves that problem.  Sometimes, both happen and all is right with the world.

This recipe was that recipe.  I was able to use things I had in my pantry--the whole roast chicken I'd planned for one thing that didn't end up happening and so roasted (poorly) after trying to cut it into pieces, the cornbread mix I had around from something I'd planned that didn't end up happening-- as well as have enough leftovers to bring in for lunch club.  Total, and complete, score.

Of course, it's only made better because it was so very good.  The enchilada sauce I chose had some spicy in it, but mixing in sour cream satisfied my spicy hating son.  I got compliments from the ladies in lunch club, who got it as leftovers (I was nervous about how well it would reheat, but it was just as good, if not better, on day 2).

Chicken Tamale Casserole Cooking Light November 2008 via Myrecipes

  • 1 cup (4 ounces) preshredded 4-cheese Mexican blend cheese, divided
  • 1/3 cup fat-free milk 
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute 
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • (14 3/4-ounce) can cream-style corn 
  • (8.5-ounce) box corn muffin mix 
  • (4-ounce) can chopped green chiles, drained 
  • Cooking spray 
  • (10-ounce) can red enchilada sauce 
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast 
  • 1/2 cup fat-free sour cream 


  1. 1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. 2. Combine 1/4 cup cheese and next 7 ingredients (through chiles) in a large bowl, stirring just until moist. Pour mixture into a 13 x 9–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.
  3. 3. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until set. Pierce entire surface liberally with a fork; pour enchilada sauce over top. Top with chicken; sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until cheese melts. Remove from oven; let stand 5 minutes. Cut into 8 pieces; top each serving with 1 tablespoon sour cream.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Meatless Monday: Vegetarian Chili

My husband was not to be home for dinner the other night, so as we were traveling and I was doing my meal plan, I asked my four year old what he'd like:  vegetarian chili, beef stew, or something with sweet potatoes.  He said he wanted chili, red chili.  So, I found a new red chili recipe to try.

I came across this one from Emeril on Ezra Pound Cake's blog, and her review made me want to try it for sure, in addition to the fact that Emeril's recipe came up in my initial search for vegetarian recipes as highly rated. 

First of all, I wish I had used my better judgment and used canned diced tomatoes instead of the December tomatoes from the store.  Hard as rocks and utterly devoid of flavor, they added little to the recipe.  Since I was cooking for Mr. "It's too spicy," I skipped the serrano pepper (the little sign in the grocery store said HOT!) in favor of some jarred sliced jalapenos I always have in the fridge.  I tossed in more than I might have otherwise, after he enjoyed a spicy to my palate Chicken Tamale Casserole into which I'd mixed sour cream.  He said he liked it at first, and then refused to eat it after about 10 bites.  Yes, seriously.

Anyway, this was REALLY good.  Not the typical chili recipe, but really good nonetheless.  I added lots to it in the way of toppings:  avocado, shredded Mexican cheese, and sour cream, and they were super yummy.

Vegetarian Chili Source:  Emeril Lagasse, via Ezra Poundcake
Makes 6 to 8 servings
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions (about 3 small onions)
  • 1 cup chopped red bell peppers
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 3T diced jarred jalapenoVeg
  • 1 medium zucchini, stem ends trimmed and cut into small dice
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (about 3 ears)
  • 1 1/2 pounds portobello mushrooms (about 5 large), stemmed, wiped clean and cubed
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 4 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 3 cups cooked black beans (or 2 15-ounce cans of black beans), rinsed and drained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup vegetable stock or water
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves (do not add to the pot if you’re planning to freeze chili)
  • Optional additions: cooked brown rice, sour cream, Greek yogurt, diced avocado, chopped scallions
  1. In a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the onions, bell peppers, garlic, and serrano peppers, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the zucchini, corn, and mushrooms, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables give off their liquid and start to brown around the edges, about 6 minutes.
  4. Add the chili powder, cumin, salt and cayenne, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  5. Stir in the tomatoes.
  6. Add the black beans, tomato sauce and vegetable stock, stir well, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes.
  7. Remove from the heat, and stir in the cilantro. Adjust the seasoning, to taste.
  8. To serve, place 1/4 cup of brown rice in the bottom of each bowl. Ladle the chili over the rice, and top with whatever garnishes you choose. Serve immediately.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Skillet Macaroni and Cheese

Have you yet checked out Best 30 Minute Recipes from Cook's Illustrated?  If not, you should do it.  Go to your library, add it to your Christmas list....  I tried a bunch of recipes in the time I had the book, and there was only one that my family wasn't raving about. 

This may be the best macaroni and cheese I've ever made.  My husband, who doesn't really like macaroni and cheese liked it...  that says a lot!  And how many macaroni and cheese recipes do YOU know that really, truly, honestly, absolutely take 30 minutes?  Even if you're a disorganized, odds are good you forgot something, cook like me? 

Skillet Macaroni and Cheese Best 30 Minute Recipes by Cook's Illustrated via Recipe Swap Blog at Syracuse

3½cups water, plus more as needed
1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
12 ounces elbow macaroni (3 cups)
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon dry mustard
¼teaspoon Tabasco sauce
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Bring water, 1 cup of evaporated milk, the macaroni and ½teaspoon salt to simmer in 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat. Cook, stirring often, for 8-10 minutes or until macaroni is tender.
Whisk together remaining ½ cup evaporated milk, cornstarch, mustard and Tabasco, then stir into skillet. Simmer until slightly thickened, about 1 minute.
Take skillet off heat and stir in cheeses, 1 handful at a time. Add additional water if needed, if sauce gets too thick. Stir in butter and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Variations: Add 4 ounces deli-style baked ham, diced medium, and ½ cup frozen peas with the cornstarch mixture in step 2. Or, for spicy mac and cheese, add 2 teaspoons minced chipotle chiles in adobo sauce and 1 (10 ounce) can Rotel tomatoes, drained, with cornstarch mixture in step 2.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Spanish Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Recently, a friend of mine had her second baby in less than two years, and was really struggling.  I wanted to bring food to help her out.  Since they are vegetarians, I asked my friend Lishie, who is a former veg and has a veg sister, for some inspiration for food that would travel and/or freeze well.
She gave me a few suggestions, and this is the one I chose.

What a wonderful way to use up or take advantage of the bounty of summer produce.  This was really easy (once I figured out an easy and effective way to roast the peppers) and quite tasty.  It's such a basic recipe, you could easily spice it up by adding some crushed red peppers, or change the flavor with some easy additions (mushrooms?  green peppers?)  Lishie suggested making a lasagna using this sauce, which sounds outrageously good!

Spanish Roasted Red Pepper Sauce Delish

  • 5 red peppers
  • 3 medium tomatoes or 14 oz tomato sauce
  • 1 small Onion, diced
  • Olive Oil
  • 3 TBSp Heavy Cream
  • S & P

Place the red peppers & the tomatoes on a baking sheet & sprinkle with olive oil. Roast them under the broiler until they are blackened, roasted. Allow to cool.

Transfer the veg to the food processor & puree with a little more olive oil.

Meanwhile, saute the onion is a sauce pan on medium-high. Add the pureed mixture & stir. When the sauce is nearly heated through, add the cream. Add S & P to taste.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


Wow, I just realized that the fourth anniversary of my first post was this week (December 5).  This blog has been an incredible resource for me, even if not another soul ever looks at it.  I started because the trend on a message board I was reading was to do it.  Yep, the bandwagon.  But really, I wanted to find a better way to organize all the recipes we've tried and loved so that I could access them from anywhere--and this was before I had a smartphone.  Now that I do have a smart phone, I don't wander the grocery store as aimlessly on those nights I don't have a plan for dinner.  Instead, I bring up my website, and instantly have an easy recipe to shop for.

Another way in which it's been a resource for me is that it's challenged me to step outside of my comfort zone.  It's very rare for us to have a meal again.  For better or worse, the challenge to try something new--a new technique, a new recipe, even a new food, is present because I want to blog about it.

On another message board, there's been criticism of bloggers like me.  One person commented that the only food blogs she reads are those with truly original recipes or really beautiful photography.  This bothered me at first, because I have neither of those.  Ever.  But then I stepped back and thought about why I'm doing this.  First, I'm doing this for me--to have all my recipes (and thoughts about them) in one place, to inspire or challenge myself in some new way and to grow (geez, without this, I'd never have tried to conquer the recipes of Dorie Greenspan or some of the other challenges in which I've partaken).  Second, maybe there IS someone who will read this and find my comments and bad photography useful.  If not, that's totally cool because the ultimate goal is part one, but if it does help another person, how could it be bad?

So, happy birthday, "Tales from the Mad Men Kitchen," formerly known as "Nothing to See Here."   You've been super awesome for me!

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

For a co-worker's birthday in October, she requested cupcakes.  When I asked what kind, she said any.  So, I went with something that caught my eye and sounded like something *I* would like.  Turns out, pumpkin is one of her "favorite things ever," and I made a perfect choice.  Score!

These were outrageously good.  My coworkers told me I should open a cupcake business (little do they know how unskilled in the kitchen I really am).   They had that perfect flavor of the Starbucks fall treat to which I used to be addicted (until I realized how much I don't like Starbucks and thus how much cream and sugar it required to make it taste good to me as well as how big a dent such an addiction was putting in my wallet!)

I happened to have been drinking Dunkin Donuts Pumpkin Spice coffee the week I made these, so I added that additional flavor to it when I brushed that flavor of coffee over top, but any coffee (or maybe caramel, cinnamon, whatever) would add an additional treat too.

A perfect fall treat!
Shout out to my friend Lishie for the B Movie zombie plate!
Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes Annie's Eats
Yield: about 2 dozen cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. espresso powder
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. salt
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
4 large eggs
½ cup coffee or espresso, for brushing
For the whipped cream:
2¼ cups heavy cream, chilled
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
For garnish:
Ground cinnamon
Caramel sauce
To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt.  Stir together and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend together the pumpkin, granulated sugar, brown sugar and oil. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  With the mixture on low speed, add the flour mixture in two additions, mixing just until incorporated.
Fill the cupcake liners about three-quarters full.  Bake until the cupcakes are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 18-20 minutes.  Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes, then remove the cupcakes from the pans.  While the cupcakes are still warm, brush them two or three times with the coffee or espresso, allowing the first coat to soak in before repeating.  Let cool completely.
To make the frosting, place the heavy cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Whip on medium-low speed at first, gradually increasing to high speed.  Blend in the confectioners’ sugar gradually.  Whip until stiff peaks form, being careful not to over-beat.  Use a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip to frost the cooled cupcakes.  Sprinkle with ground cinnamon and drizzle with caramel sauce.  Store in an airtight container and refrigerate.
Source: cake adapted from Williams Sonoma

Creamy Shiitake Alfredo

Oh, my blog, I've missed you.  I'm sure I'll fall behind again, take pictures of every new thing I make, forget what I thought about them, and be back here again.  At any rate, let's catch up.

A few months ago, the guys at The Bitten Word ran a contest to win a subscription to Everyday Food.  By some stroke of changing luck, I won!  I love this little meal because it's... Everyday and I can even use it... every day.  Not fussy, easy meals, that don't take long to make, complete with beautiful food photography, and a design that, if I had time/interest in scrapbooking, I'd use as inspiration for my scrapbook pages.

This is one recipe I discovered in this magazine.  Of course, their food photography looks a million times better than mine, so see how it's supposed to look in a photograph here.

We really enjoyed this.  The boys weren't nuts about the mushrooms, but my husband and I really loved the flavor they brought.  According to the time stamp on the photo, we had this on October 29.  A while ago.  But I know we liked it.  The recipe states it take 50 minutes from start to finish, and I can't remember at all, but I do know that I made it on a weeknight, so perhaps it wasn't so very bad to do...

Creamy Shiitake Alfredo Everyday Food November 2011


  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 3/4 pound fusilli or other short twisted pasta
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 small shallots, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • Grated Parmesan, for serving


  1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high. Add shallots and garlic and cook, stirring, until shallots are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and thyme and cook until mushrooms are tender, about 2 minutes. Add wine and cook until liquid is reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low, stir in cream, and cook until warmed (do not let boil). Season with salt and pepper. Add pasta to skillet, toss to combine, and top with Parmesan.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Swiss Mushroom Turkey Burger

This was another hit from the December issue of Food Network Magazine.  My husband was the meal planner, and is not a fan of beef.  When he saw the original recipe, he figured just throwing some ground turkey, salt, and pepper together (since he doesn't like beef) wouldn't make a very tasty burger, so he went in search of a good turkey burger recipe, and came across "Actually Delicious Turkey Burgers" on allrecipes.

Together with the Food Network Magazine recipe, this made an awesome sandwich.  It was full of flavor, and just the right amount of messy. 

Swiss Mushroom Burger Food Network Magazine December 2011


Preheat the broiler and line the bottom of a broiler pan with foil. Lightly mix the beef with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl. Gently form into 4 patties, about 3/4 inch thick. Arrange on the prepared pan and brush both sides with olive oil. Broil until browned, about 4 minutes per side for medium rare.

Meanwhile, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook 2 more minutes. Add the Worcestershire sauce and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 2 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat. Combine the ketchup and mustard in a small bowl and set aside.

Top each patty with one-quarter of the mushroom mixture and 1 slice cheese. Return to the broiler to melt the cheese, about 1 minute.

Spread the buns with the ketchup mixture; sandwich with the patties and some lettuce. Serve with chips and/or pickles.

Actually Delicious Turkey Burger Allrecipes

  • 3 pounds ground turkey
  • 1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup finely diced onion
  • 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper


  1. In a large bowl, mix ground turkey, seasoned bread crumbs, onion, egg whites, parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper. Form into 12 patties.
  2. Cook the patties in a medium skillet over medium heat, turning once, to an internal temperature of 180 degrees F (85 degrees C).

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Four Cheese Pasta with Peas and Ham

My husband planned all the meals this week, with intentions of cooking as well, and he did it all through this month's Food Network Magazine. This is one of his choices, though I ended up making it.

This one was a huge hit with my family. The one year old gobbled it up, the four year old thought it was mac and cheese and ate it up, and my husband and I thought it was delicious. It was super creamy and gooey and cheesey, had the right amount of textures, and was really flavorful.

I made a few slight changes, using heavy cream instead of evaporated milk, and honey ham steak instead of deli ham, and I added black pepper at the end. Nothing crazy. But a crazy yummy dinner.

Four Cheese Pasta with Peas and Ham Food Network Magazine, December 2011
Kosher salt
12 ounces penne
1 cup frozen peas
2 large eggs, plus 1 egg white
1 cup evaporated milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated (1 scant cup)
3 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
3 ounces fontina cheese, grated (1 scant cup)
3 ounces deli ham, in 1 piece, diced
1 ounce parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until very al dente, about 8 minutes, adding the peas in the last 2 minutes of cooking.
Meanwhile, whisk the eggs, egg white, evaporated milk and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a bowl.
Drain the pasta and peas; wipe the pot dry and return the pasta and peas to the pot. Add the butter and stir to coat. Add the cheddar, mozzarella, fontina and the egg mixture. Place the pot over medium-low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, 8 to 10 minutes, adding the ham halfway through cooking (don't let the mixture boil or the eggs will scramble). Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the parmesan.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Stir Fried Pork and Snow Peas with Sweet and Sour Sauce

,A few months ago, several friends and I all made at home versions of Chinese take out standards, Take-Out at Home Challenge.  I had a great time and found some great recipes, but haven't really made anything Asian since.  But as I'm making as many of the recipes from Cook's Illustrated's The Best 30 Minute Recipe, I decided to go for Asian once again.

This was almost excellent.  The flavor was great, however, the book's recommendation to prepare the sauce while stir-frying the pork kind of goes against the philosophy of stir frying--it happens fast, so you have to be there and on it.  If you have two cooks in the kitchen, surely it would work great, but with only one, your odds of the meat becoming overcooked as mine did, are very high.  So, it's worth calling a helping hand if you have one around or waiting till the sauce comes together before dealing with the pork.

Otherwise, this is a near perfect dinner!

Stir Fried Pork and Snow Peas with Sweet and Sour Sauce Source:  The Best 30 Minute Recipe Cook's Illustrated, via Searchable Recipe Database
1 pound  Pork tenderloin, cut into thin strips
    2 teaspoons  soy sauce
    2 tablespoons  vegetable oil
    1 recipe  Sweet-and Sour Sauce (see below)
    1  red onion, sliced thin
    6 ounces  snow peas, strings removed
    1 20-ounce can  diced pineapple, drained
    3 cloves  garlic, minced
    1 tablespoon  fresh ginger, grated
Making the minutes Count:

Prepare the suce while the pork cooks. Mince the garlic and grate the ginger while the vegetables cook.

Stir-fry Pork and prepare sauce: Toss pork with soy sauce. Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in 12 inch nonstick skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add pork and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up clumps, until lightly browned, about 3minutes. (While pork cooks, prrepare sauce.) Transfer pork to clean bowl

Stir-Fry Vegetables and Pineapple. Add 1 more tablespoon of oil to pan and return to high heat until shimmering. Add onion and snow peas and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add pineapple and cook until warmed through

Combine and Simmer: Clear center of pan and add remainineg 1 teaspoon oil, garlic, and gingner. Cook, mashing garlic mixture into pan with bakck of spatula, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in cooked pork. Whisk sauce to recombine, add it to pan, and bring to simmer. Cook until sauce thickens, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve immediately.

Sweet and Sour Sauce 
6T red wine vinegar
6T orange juice
6T sugar
3T ketchup
1t cornstarch
1/2t salt

Using a medium bowl, mix all ingredients.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Chicken and Rice with Broccoli and Cheddar

I love Cook's Illustrated.  In almost every single case, I've found their work to be incredibly perfect and that while sometimes time consuming, their recipes are not too difficult for my not super skill in the kitchen.  So, when I heard they had a new cookbook, The Best 30 Minute Recipe, I knew I had to check it out.

Everything I've made so far has been perfect.  Chicken and Rice with Broccoli and Cheddar (page 108) was the first I made, I believe, and it was so excellent and FAST.  Yes, the recipes actually do take 30 minutes.  They give handy little tips so that it actually happens in the home kitchen!

I did have some trouble with the rice, as I often do.  I used long grain brown rice, and followed the directions CI gives, but it took way longer than directed to get it cooked all the way.  I'm wondering how much of that is me and how much of it is something else.

Chicken and Rice with Broccoli and Cheddar Source:  The Best 30 Minute Recipe Cook's Illustrated, via Heat Oven to 350

Skillet Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli

4boneless, skinless chicken breasts (6 ounces each)

salt and freshly ground black pepper
3tablespoons vegetable oil
1onion, minced
cups instant white rice
3garlic cloves, minced
cups low sodium chicken broth
110oz pkg frozen broccoli florets, thawed

(or one large head of broccoli, washed and cut into florets)
1cup shredded cheddar cheese
1teaspoon tabasco

1. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown chicken well on one side, about 5 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate and set aside.

2. Add remaining tablespoon oil to skillet, and return to med high heat till shimmering. Add onion and ½ teaspoon salt and cook uintil softened. 5 minutes. Stir in rice and garlic and cook until fragrant about 30 seconds.

3. Stir in broth, scraping up any browned bits. nestle chicken into rice browned side up. Cover and cook over medium low heat until liquid is absorbed and thickest part of chicken registers 160, about 10 minutes.

4. Transfer chicken to clean plate. Off heat gently fold broccoli, ½ cup cheddar, and tabasco into rice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle remaining ½ cup cheddar over top, cover, and let sit till cheese melts, about 2 minutes. Serve with chicken.

Yield: Four servings

Recipe Source: Cook's Illustrated Best 30-Minute Meals

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Skillet Baked Ziti

I love baked pasta dishes, the cheesier the better.  My husband, on the other hand, generally doesn't like baked pasta.  He can't take it when there are pieces of hard pasta--hitting a piece of it turns him off to the whole dish.  Nevertheless, I went for it when I saw that Cook's Illustrated had a skillet AND baked version of ziti.

It was farking awesome.  It was so fast, so easy, and tasted almost like something you'd get from your local pizza shop.  No hard pasta either, my husband (and my sons) loved it just as much as I did.


Skillet Baked Ziti Source:  The Best 30 Minute Recipe Cook's Illustrated, page 140, via Right in Front of Me

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • Table salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 3 cups water
  • 12 oz. ziti (3 3/4 cups) *
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Combine oil, garlic, pepper flakes, and 1/2 tsp. salt in 12-inch ovensafe nonstick skillet and sauté over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add tomatoes, water, ziti, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Cover and cook, stirring often and adjusting heat as needed to maintain a vigorous simmer, until ziti is almost tender, 15 to 18 minutes. (Note: this is a good time to grate your Parmesan and prep your basil.)
Stir in cream, Parmesan, and basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle mozzarella evenly over ziti. Transfer skillet to oven and bake at 475° until cheese has melted and browned, about 10 minutes.
(Note: if your 12-inch skillet isn’t ovensafe, you can transfer the pasta to a 2-quart casserole dish before sprinkling with mozzarella and baking.)

Snickerdoodle Blondies

I'm forcing myself to bake more in these crazy times of working full time by baking for my coworkers' birthdays.  In October, one of the birthday girls requested brownies.  Wanting to challenge myself, I made brownies but when I came across this recipe at Brown Eyed Baker's blog, I wanted to make those too.

Holy cow these were delicious.  I didn't use a whole lot of cinnamon sugar on top, so they didn't have that little bit of crunch, but they were absolutely perfect as I made them.

Snickerdoodle Blondies Source:  Brown Eyed Baker

Snickerdoodle Blondies
Yield: 24 blondies
Prep Time: 15 minutes | Bake Time: 25 to 30 minutes
2-2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan; set aside.
2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium bowl; set aside.
3. Beat together the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, and then the vanilla. Beat, scraping the bowl, until thoroughly combined. On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture until just combined. Give the dough a final stir with a spatula or wooden spoon to make sure the flour is incorporated.
4. Spread the dough evenly into the pan (I found an offset spatula was the best tool for the job, as it’s a thick batter). Combine the granulated sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and sprinkle evenly over the top of the batter.
5. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the surface springs back when gently pressed. Cool completely before cutting. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
(Recipe adapted from My Baking Addiction)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bake Sale Brownies

I learned something new this weekend.  You don't check doneness on a brownie the same way you do a cake or cupcake.  Instead, when you stick a toothpick in, there should be pieces (though not streaks) clinging to it.  Or you can check to see that the edges are pulling from the side of the pan.  Probably something everyone already knew, but it was news to me.

This year, to get myself baking more despite the demands of being a working mom, I've taken on the challenge of being "Sunshine Chair."  Among other things, this has evolved to mean bringing in goodies to celebrate birthdays.  I asked everyone who participates what their favorite baked good is.  This month's first birthday celebration asked for brownies.  

I turned to where it all began, America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.  See, I credit the ATK with giving me the confidence to bake.  It soon became a bible of sorts, since every single thing I made from it turned out great.  I'll now go so far as to say I'm in a love affair with Cook's Illustrated, and my birthday gift from my husband last year was a subscription to their (very excellent) magazine, Cook's Country.

Bake Shop Brownies.

With a name like that, you already get a sense of how good they'll be.  And they were excellent.  Just the right amount of cake and goo.  The perfect amount of chocolatey yumminess.  And it took roughly the same amount of time it would have taken me to toss together brownies from a box.  And, perhaps you've noticed, I'm not the most adept person in the kitchen.  You can do it too.

These flew at work.  I promised A a taste, but there just wasn't any left after my fairly small group of coworkers got hold of them.   I'm glad I took a taste before bringing them in (you know, to make sure they weren't poisoned.)

The recipe I used is almost identical to the one shared at gas*tron*o*my.  I'll take advantage of her having done the work!

Bake Sale Brownies America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, via gas*tron*o*my
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 Degrees. Line an 8-inch square pan with foil then coat lightly with vegetable oil spray. Melt the butter and chocolate together in the microwave, stirring often, 1 to 3 minutes. Let the mixture cool slightly.

Whisk the sugar, eggs, vanilla, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl until combined. Whisk in the melted chocolate mixture until smooth. Stir in the flour until no streaks remain.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached, 22 to 27 minutes.

Let cool completely on a wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours, before removing the brownies from the pan using the foil and cutting into squares.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Chicken Marsala Wrap

My husband is a big fan of chicken marsala; it's probably the meal I've seen him order most when we go out to eat (not counting his old standby takeout meal of chicken parm sub).  When he heard we were having it in wrap form for dinner, he raised his eyebrow with an "I'm intrigued" look.

This really didn't disappoint.  I'm not as big a fan of chicken marsala as he is and it has to be really good for me to like it, and I liked it a lot.  My four year old LOVED it.   Woo!

I served it with a mixture of sweet potato and regular french fries.  Yum!

Chicken Marsala Wrap from Stephanie Cooks
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup thin sliced white onions
6 oz. white sliced mushrooms
1 cup cooked chicken
1/2 cup marsala wine
4 slices provolone cheese
2 flour tortillas

1- In a large skillet heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and mushrooms, cooking until soft (about 10 minutes).
2- Add the wine and chicken, allowing the wine to cook down. If the sauce doesn't thicken and coat the mixture turn the heat up until completely coats the mixture.
3- Turn off the heat and divide the chicken mixture over the tortillas. Top with the cheese and wrap tightly, allowing the cheese to sit a couple minutes and melt. Slice and serve hot.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Apple Bread

I know I've mentioned this before, but I'm pretty sure I haven't reviewed it.
As a bread machine recipe, this is so darned easy. All you do is measure everything out, toss it in, press a button, and go about your day.

It's delicious. We bought apple butter while we were at the orchard, and my husband asked what he should put it on other than regular bread, so I suggested that I make apple bread.

And it was delicious. and easy. And used up an apple or two from our haul.

Apple chunk bread from Razzle Dazzle Recipes
1 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
1 1/3 cups apples, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 cups bread flour
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast

Add ingredients in order, adding apple pieces with liquid ingredients.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Apple Muffins

This year, we once again went apple picking at a local farm. Due to busy schedules, we didn't get there until really late in the season, and though the trees were pretty picked over, there were still lots of great apples to be had. My husband paid and didn't pay any attention to the size of our haul, but I immediately got to baking.

We've been trying as much as possible to bake something for our boys' breakfasts, so that they don't have school provided Cheerios every single day. It hasn't gone as well as planned because of the busyes (the busees? busies?), the lazies, and the overwhelmzies, but we've been successful at home baking more weeks than we've bought. So I decided to turn some of those apples into breakfasts, and found this recipe over at The Girl Who Ate Everything. I went super light on the brown sugar topping, so my muffins don't look nearly as nice and crunchy as hers do, but they were incredibly delicious nonetheless.

I substituted about a cup of natural chunky applesauce for the oil, which may have resulted in a denser muffin than the original, but these are delicious anyway. It made about 20 muffins, so I popped half of them into the freezer in the hopes of saving some for later. These come together really quickly and are totally yummy.

Apple Muffins
Source: Marissa Pinon via
The Girl Who Ate Everything

Cream together:
2 cups sugar (I use 1 1/2 cups)
2 eggs
1 cup oil
1 Tablespoon vanilla

3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon

3 cups peeled, cored, diced apples (around 3 apples)
Brown sugar for topping (around 1/2 cup)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin pan with paper liners.

Cream together sugar, eggs, oil, and vanilla. Sift flour, baking soda, salt, and ground cinnamon (I never sift and they turn out fine). Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture and mix until combined. The batter will be very thick. Add the diced apples.

Fill paper liners almost to the top, about 3/4 of the way full. Sprinkle with brown sugar.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-24 minutes. Makes 18 muffins.

Goat Cheese, Sweet Onion, Apple, and Brandy Chicken

When I saw this on Sarah's blog, I knew I wanted to make it soon.  Sarah decided she wasn't going to roll the chicken but instead top it, and though I also HATE making stuffed chicken, I went ahead and followed the original stuffed chicken recipe from Cheesecurd in Paradise.

We really liked this, the perfect fall dinner--the flavors blended perfectly.  I served it with Stove Top (yep, Stove Top) and it was a perfect accompaniment.

Goat Cheese, Sweet Onion, Apple, and Brandy Chicken from Cheesecurd in Paradise
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
3 oz goat cheese
1 medium apple, chopped
1 sweet onion, sliced
1/3 cup brandy
1 Tbl olive oil
1 Tbl butter
1 Tbl sugar
Black pepper

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Add butter, oil, sugar, apples, onion and brandy to a large skillet. Allow mixture to simmer till liquid is absorbed, and onions are tender. Set aside.

Place chicken breasts into separate plastic bags and pound with a meat mallet till chicken is about 1/4 inch thick. Spread one quarter of the goat cheese on chicken and place 1/4 cup of apple mixture in the center of the chicken. Fold in the sides of the chicken and secure with toothpicks. Place chicken in baking dish and repeat with 3 remaining chicken breasts. Be sure to reserve 1/2 cup of the apple mixture. Season chicken with black pepper. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Top with remaining apple mixture.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cilantro Lime Rice

I served this with Hawaiian Chicken the other night, and since the chicken looked kinda weird, I didn't bother taking the camera out for this.

The rice got rave reviews, despite my habit of never being able to properly cook rice.  My husband, who almost never likes rice as a side dish, said he really liked it.  I really liked it too.

I used brown long grain rice, which may or may not have impacted the cooking time.  I accidentally over boiled so that there wasn't any water covering the rice after the first step, so added more water and I also had to simmer it about 10-15 minutes longer than directed.

Chipotle Cilantro Lime Rice
Servings: 4
1 cup extra long grain rice or basmati rice
1/2 lime, juice of
2 cups water
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp fresh chopped cilantro
4 tsp vegetable oil
In a small heavy pot, add rice, water, 1 tsp oil and salt. Boil on high until most of the water evaporates. When the water just skims the top of the rice, reduce to low and cover about 15 minutes. Shut off flame and keep covered an additional 5 minute.In a medium bowl, combine chopped cilantro, lime juice, rice and remaining oil and toss until completely mixed.

Hawaiian Chicken

When it comes to cooking, I'm not great at side dishes.  I'm also not great at presentation.  I have no future on a line at a restaurant because when the food I've cooked comes out of the kitchen, it more often than not looks like slop.  This is much more acceptable in a Crockpot meal than in many others, but most everything I cook looks like it came out of a Crockpot.

This is one of those cases in which the food comes out looking terrible, but tastes really good.  At least, it tasted really good to the over 18 crowd.  I'll admit to going a bit heavy handed on the cayenne pepper, but it wasn't bad at all to M and me, but the boys wouldn't eat it and had to have a second meal.

And, just like so many of my favorite meals, this came together really quickly and used ingredients I already had on hand.  Good stuff.

So, feel free to take a look at the picture at Macaroni and Cheesecake because her dinner certainly doesn't look like slop.

Hawaiian Chicken from Macaroni and Cheesecake
Hawaiian Chicken
1 cup crushed pineapple
1 tbsp. honey
juice of 1/2 lime
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 clove minced garlic
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/8-1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. cilantro
2 large chicken breasts, cut in half or 4 smaller chicken breasts
In a medium sized bowl mix together pineapple and all other ingredients except the chicken until combined. Place chicken in the bowl to marinate and refrigerate until ready to use. We marinated for 1 hour, but if you have less time it would be just fine.
After marinating, place chicken & marinade in a large skillet, sprayed with cooking spray. Cook over medium heat for approximately 20 minutes until chicken is cooked through and marinade has reduced just slightly. Serve chicken topped with cooked marinade & garnish with cilantro.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Apple Cheesecake Crumb Bars

I've taken on the role of morale builder upper person this year, which means I've taken on way more responsibility than I probably should have.  One of the jobs includes getting baked goods for birthdays and other celebrations, and I'm taking this as something to get me baking when I'm way too exhausted and would rather plop on the couch (I need goals and motivation to do even the things I love sometimes).

One of my colleagues got married recently, and she listed her favorite dessert as apple crumb cake and dessert, so when this recipe from The Naptime Chef came in my email literally the day before I was planning to make something for her, I knew I had a winner.

I had some real problems making the crust/topping for this recipe, since my 4 cup food processor just wasn't cutting it.  I got fed up and actually went out and bought another one once this was all made.  Other than that, though, this was a really easy, and oh my freaking God delicious recipe.

Since I brought it into work, some of my coworkers ate them with the vanilla ice cream in our work freezer; when we ate them at home, we did a drizzle of caramel on top of the still warm bars.  Heavenly!!

Apple Crumb Cheesecake Bars  Source:  The Naptime Chef


Crust & Topping:
3cups all-purpose flour
1 ½cups light brown sugar
1cup quick-cooking oats
3sticks unsalted butter
1teaspoon Kosher salt
114 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
8ounces cream cheese, softened
2teaspoons vanilla extract
2tablespoons flour
4apples, peeled, cored and chopped
½teaspoon cinnamon
¼teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼teaspoon ground ginger
2tablespoons sugar


1.Preheat the oven to 350F.
2. Pour the flour, sugar, oats and salt into a food processor and pulse until crumbs form. Add the butter in large chunks to the food processor until the mixture becomes pebbly and holds shape when pinched.
3. Press 2/3 of the crumb mixture into the bottom of a 9×13 pan and bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden.
4. Meanwhile, beat the cream cheese until soft and pour in the milk until completely smooth. With the mixer on low add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Then add the vanilla and flour. Set aside.
5. Toss the chopped apples with the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and sugar and set aside.
6. Once the crust is cooled pour the cream cheese mixture evenly on top, followed by the chopped apples. Spread the remaining 1/3 of the crumb mixture on top and bake for about 35 minutes, or until the bars are set and the crumb is lightly golden. Allow to cool completely before serving.
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